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Taking Initiative: Sandra Soellner cries for help.

Public Eye

Bye, Neighbor

The rogue San Jose neighborhood Naglee Park may soon have some company in its campaign to shun the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative redevelopment fest, according to a couple of neighbors. To recap, in October, Naglee's Campus Community Association voted 191-155 to kick the initiative off its turf, thus reducing its fear of meeting with the business end of the city's eminent-domain stick. On Jan. 9, another disgruntled neighborhood gang, the South University Neighborhood group, made noise about possibly wanting out of the friendly city project as well, despite the city's $1.4 million goodie bag. Group pres Sandra Soellner, secretary David Gutierrez, treasurer Michael Reandeau and community liaison Ardith Mayer sent a letter to Parks and Rec director Sarah Hensley and members of the San Jose City Council demanding that the city play like a partner instead of just talking like one. "We want to bring the SNI plan back to the community so the neighborhood can decide if they feel it in their best interest to remain as one of the neighborhoods in the process," reads the letter. Chief Soellner visited Eye Central last week with comrade in arms Steve Cohen from the West of 4th Street Neighborhood Group. Cohen's main issue is the proposed relocation of a teen homeless shelter in his hood, something he very much opposes. But Cohen and Soellner insist that the problem goes beyond the one shelter and that the City Council and its Redevelopment Agency are basically selling out the downtown neighborhoods to developers under the guise of neighborhood planning. "The idea is good," Cohen says about the Strong Neighborhood Initiative's funding of priority neighborhood projects. "The problem is the process." Cohen says the city has narrowed down the number of people who get to help shape developments, and most neighbors are being ignored. "We have been eliminated," he says of the selection process. Soellner concurs and gives the example that residents' initial idea for an interneighborhood corridor walkway has, through the city's process, become unrecognizable, inconvenient and no longer where neighbors wanted it. Jonathan Noble, chief of staff for Councilmember Cindy Chavez, says his boss is trying to set up a meeting with Soellner and pals.

Once Bitten

The party's over--again. Does San Jose ever tire of this tune? Latest on the hit list: The Gallery, a large space located at 160 E. Virginia St., home to underground events, including art, skateboarding and B-boy exhibitions, and eclectic live-music acts like Sage Francis, Atmosphere, Kid Koala, Tsunami Bomb, Zion I and Plans for Revenge that played for all-age audiences in an alcohol-free environment. Until last week, that is. According to San Jose Police Department spokescop Steve Dixon, vice officers got wind of a rave-style event called Shakedown at the Gallery that was scheduled for March 8. Worried that things might go the way of the Great White club tragedy, San Jose vice notified the city's code enforcement department, which sent the Gallery a letter reminding it of the limits of its zoning. The show--and all future shows--was subsequently canceled, and the Gallery went kaput. "Code enforcement advised that their zoning doesn't allow entertainment," says Sgt. Dixon. "We've been looking at all entertainment events closely since Rhode Island." The Gallery's booking and promotions director, Christopher Hill, acknowledges that the Gallery's location in an industrial zone doesn't allow it to throw jams, but since day one, he says, the Gallery operated with full knowledge of SJPD. "We've been completely upfront with them for what we were doing, and they allowed us to exist ... It's fairly obvious that the city is trying to limit its night life to a very restricted downtown area and cater to a 21-and-over commercial-music-oriented crowd," says Hill.

Kvamme A River

Silicon Valley business star Mark Kvamme (pronounced Kwah-me) crossed that apparently fine line between successful, connected businessman and campaign contribution law violator. Kvamme is the former CEO and President of CKS Group, a high-tech marketing firm that started in Cupertino but has since merged and gone bust. He now works as a service and software investment partner for Sequoia Capital. The Fair Political Practices Commission reported on Friday, March 7, that Kvamme failed to fess up to the $10,000 donation that he dropped late in the 2002 primary election cycle. Eyewatchers may recall that Kvamme's dad, Floyd Kvamme, is a local business legend who helped found Santa Clara's National Semiconductor. The senior Kvamme, who gave Bill Simon $50,000 last April to support his run for governor and handed the California Republican Party $25,000 in September, has clearly raised his son to chip in for politics. But Kvamme Jr. supports questionable campaign practices like "contribution swapping," which enables donors to circumvent limits, according to an Associated Press article that quotes him. It wasn't punishment enough for Kvamme to know that he wasted 10K on Richard Riordan, the L.A. mod Republican who didn't even make it through the primary. So, the FPPC fined Kvamme $1,500. Kvamme tells Eye he was shocked that his lawyers didn't report the gift. "Obviously I'll be a lot more careful," he says.

Bush on Womyn

Last August, President George W. Bush raved about the progress women have made since gaining the right to vote in 1920. "Looking to the future, we must remain diligent as we work to ensure the rights of all of our citizens and to support those who struggle daily for life's basic liberties," the, um, feminist said at the time as he proclaimed Aug. 26, 2002, Women's Equality Day. Well, that day's apparently over. Last week, Eye received frantic emails from distressed women's rights fans, including the Feminist Majority, which complained about Bush's recent nomination of abortion foes to at least 10 prominent judicial spots and one national reproductive-health-care overseer. "Feminist Majority opposes nomination of Jeffrey Sutton to the Sixth Circuit," read one note. "The Senate must continue to send President Bush the message that they will not approve judges that will take away women's rights and roll the clock backwards according to a right-wing ideology." Sutton is one of 10 nominees Bush recently made to fill appeals court positions across the country. These judges are just one notch below the Supreme Court and are often the last resort in determining case law. Sutton argued against letting battered women sue their batterers. He is listed as one of Bush's worst pending nominations on Million4Roe.com, a pro-choice women's rights website. Also high on the list of troublemakers for feminists is W. David Hager, the man Bush appointed to head the Food and Drug Administration's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, where he'll be responsible for overseeing stuff like hormone therapy, contraception, obstetrics and gynecology drugs, including RU-486, the abortion pill. Incidentally, he's lobbied to make that pill illegal. In fact, Hager, a self-described pro-life gynecologist wrote a book called As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now. He joined forces with his wife to write Stress and the Woman's Body, which advises PMS sufferers to read the Bible and pray. Anyhoo, Cali Sen. Barbara Boxer expressed her "grave concern" over Hager's appointment and urged W. to "reconsider," for all the good that'll do. Boxer also recommended against federal appeals court nominee Carolyn Kuhl from California, who signed on to overturn Roe v. Wade and abortion rights, noting that she "is aggressively anti-choice." Sen. Feinstein also signed onto a letter reporting that she was "dismayed" by Hager's appointment. But she played it low-key on the Kuhl nomination. "I think it's hard to generalize on these things," says Feinstein spokesman Scott Gerber, explaining that his boss doesn't necessarily disagree with Bush's grand anti-abortion judicial scheme.

County Baits Outsiders

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors may seem insane sometimes. For instance, item 29 on its March 11 agenda includes the following: a $500,000 home loan for Corrections Chief Jim Babcock and, in the same breath, a repeal of the home loans for department heads program. Well, that sure seemed wacky to one anonymous tipster who called Eye recently complaining about the irony and the loan. "In a time of layoffs and budget crunches," said the irritated citizen, "let him go to the bank like everyone else!" As it turns out, the agenda item, while confusingly worded, isn't ironic. The $500,000 sweetheart deal for the guy who oversees roughly 60,000 arrestees annually was already set up a while back and is on the agenda as a matter of course. And the "repeal" is actually an edit of the home-loan benefit process. The motion, put forth by outgoing County Exec Richard Wittenberg--whose going-away party is scheduled on March 27 and whose position is currently up for grabs--extends the county's ability to bribe would-be county brass with financial aid to job candidates for positions hired by the supes as well as by the executive. County Assessor and political pundit Larry Stone says securing the county's ability to offer home loans as a perk is necessary for luring qualified out-of-towners to fill, for instance, Wittenberg's seat. "It sends a message to potential candidates from outside the Bay Area that this is an open recruitment, that no one has an inside track," Stone says.

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From the March 13-19, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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